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The Douchey DM » Adventure Design, Advice » PC Back Story Example

PC Back Story Example

A little more on PC backstories. I like them short, concise and packed with ideas. To illustrate, I’ll give you an example backstory for a cosmic horror PC.

The son of a respected professor father from a prestigious university and a renown physician mother, Dr. Arthur Stillman lived a comfortable life, attending the best schools and universities. After finishing his post graduate work, he struggled finding employment until he received a position at Rhinefall University in west Pennsylvania as a professor of parapsychology.

While respected by most of his colleagues, his unconventional theories have drawn criticism and ridicule from several prominent academicians in his field, most notably,  the coldly skeptical Dr. Henry Turn from Carrow College in upstate New York.

Within these two paragraphs and three sentences, we have plenty of plot hooks that can draw Professor Stillman and his companions into many adventures.

Perhaps, after consulting with the player, we discover that the good professor’s parents are dead and gone, but his father’s academic reputation lives on, until a former rival at this prestigious university begins to challenge the elder Stillman’s theories.

Maybe a former colleague of his father comes calling with information he was to keep secret until the PC was of a certain age.

There could be a mysterious plague affecting the local area, and the PC discovers that his mother treated similarly afflicted patients, and he must go looking through her medical notes for clues to the illness and its source.

His academic rival, Dr Turn might come calling, needing help with a supernatural problem that he cannot come to admit it supernatural in nature. Perhaps it’s all a ruse to further discredit the PC.

We also have two fictitious universities: Rhinefall and Carrow. Are they rival schools, perhaps both competing for a lucrative government research grant?

The possibilities go on and on, and if you add similar backstories from other PCs, the combinations of plot ideas — fashioned personally to the PCs — become nearly endless.

Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

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One Response to "PC Back Story Example"

  1. R. A. Whipple (@RA_Whipple)No Gravatar says:

    I like my idea of the PCs meeting at a funeral rather than at a tavern. I take inspiration from the AD&D 1e character sheet that had the PC’s Last Will.

    So the GM makes the deceased PC and gives it out to the players to look over. From this start, the other players make their own PCs (together as a group effort or individually in isolation from each other) and create their ties to the PC (and potentially to each other). They single out any kit the GM’s PC had, which they want, because the player knows his or her PC will attend the reading of the last will (a process that gets hand waved so the GM is not waxing poetic for 20 minutes as the Executor of the Will – or assign the most likely PC to be executor and have this player disclose the will, which could be fun too depending on how this actually “aligns” and how many of the PCs are actually literate). The GM PC has become the catalyst for bringing all the players together at the table and to start the adventure.

    Also, through the creation of a dynamic (and dead) GMPC, the GM may have introduced a few story threads and ideas to the players to either run with, ignore or build upon.

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